Millions of cable subscribers in New York lost ABC's flagship affiliate early Sunday after a cable operator and the network couldn't reach an agreement on a new contract, according to The Associated Press.
With the signal being dropped, Cablevision Systems Corp. customers will most likely be unable to watch the 82nd Academy Awards, which will be aired on Disney Co.'s ABC network. The action comes after several days of angry words and brinksmanship by both sides, which continued once the plug was pulled.
"Cablevision has once again betrayed its subscribers by losing ABC7, the most popular station in the tri-state area," Rebecca Campbell, president and general manager of WABC, said in a statement. "This follows two years of negotiations, during which we worked diligently, up to the final moments, to reach an agreement. Cablevision pocketed almost $8 billion last year, and now customers aren't getting what they pay for ... again."
Cablevision's Charles Schueler responded: "It is now painfully clear to millions of New York area households that Disney CEO Bob Iger will hold his own ABC viewers hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees from Cablevision. We call on Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to Cablevision customers while we continue to work to reach a fair agreement."
Cablevision, which has more than 3 million subscribers in the New York area, says it already pays $200 million in fees to ABC. Customers can still view WABC for free if they have a digital tuner or an analog antenna and digital converter box.
In January, Cablevision customers lost Food Network and HGTV for three weeks over a similar contract dispute with Scripps Network Interactive.